By Dr. MaryRuth Hackett, Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante Magazine
When I converted to Catholicism, it seemed that everyone wanted to hear my conversion story. Catholics do love a good conversion story – and a solid reversion story can be pretty good too. As a mom of four, I admit I would rather my kids did NOT have their own reversion story! I want them to grow up in the fullness of the faith year-by-year, slowly internalizing it without ever having to leave. I want their faith to deepen as they grow older and for them to appreciate the sacraments more each year. As a mom however, I don’t get to make that decision for my children. Each child is on his or her own particular path to holiness. My job as a parent is to provide for, guide, and protect my children on their path.
As parents, we first provide our children with their first model of individual holiness. We also act as a primary model of parental love which becomes their basis for understanding a loving father. How we treat others in the day-to-day interactions they witness, has a defining effect on their view of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We also provide access to the sacraments and provide them with a cultural understanding of what it means to be Catholic. Mothers and fathers provide an introduction to their understanding of God Himself in the word and the Eucharist.
Parents can guide much of the spiritual growth in their young people’s lives. As the children grow older, parents recognize their children’s talents and help guide them to use those talents for God’s glory. We guide them toward showing kindness in their actions and love in their thoughts and words. We reward behaviors we want to encourage and discourage those actions that offend.
As parents, we command a special spiritual authority over our children. We have the ability to bless them and intercede for them in a unique way. We act as stewards of our children, protecting them from outside influences and slowly showing them more of the world as their maturity develops. As much as we can, we strive to protect their eyes from harmful images, their minds from corruptible messages, and their hearts from the pain that others can cause. We protect them by surrounding them with a barrier of love.
And yet, even when we do all these things, some of our children will choose to step away from actively participating in the faith. When this happens, we turn to St. Monica as our model and we continue to pray for them, to fast for them, and to unite our pain with that of the Lord. He has already died for their sins and ours. He has already conquered death. Whatever struggle our child is facing, the Lord hears our plea. So, we pray with the saints and ask for their intercession in bringing our fallen-away loved ones back to the church.
Mark Hart recently said, “we have only failed as parents when we stop praying for our children”. Whether our children are young and gathered around us each night for family prayer, or our children are grown and away, walking on what looks like a circuitous spiritual path, our responsibility to continue to love our children remains. By continuing to love our children wherever they are on their spiritual path, we can provide for, guide and protect them throughout their lives.
For more on the spiritual authority of parents tune in to Parenting Smarts Podcast Episode 82. For more on dealing with spiritual doubt listen to Episode 68.
MaryRuth Hackett, Ph.D.,
is a mom of four with a doctorate in educational psychology, specializing in child development. She hosts the Parenting Smarts podcast, blogs at Parenting with Peer Review and authored Daughter by Design: Discovering Your Identity as God’s Beloved Daughter.